Hilary (Cunningham) Scharper
ISBN 978-0-9808879-5-2 / 0-9808879-5-X
Did you ever dream of a dress? Not just any dress. But the dress, the dress that would make you perfect. The dream dress. . . .
So begins Dream Dresses, a short story collection about women’s dreams and the dresses that come to express them. Situated in Toronto, Canada and covering the life span of women from childhood to old age, these stories explore how the fabric of women’s dreams and aspirations become so entangled with attire that the dress and the dream become one and the same.
These stories portray the comingling of dreams and dress in a variety of life circumstances. These are not just fantasies about an Academy Award dress or a designer wedding gown, but the “off-runway” dreams of a young girl obliged to wear a drab school uniform, the desperate postpartum struggle of a trophy wife to “get her body back,” and the “little black dress” that a grandmother wishes to wear at her own funeral.
Much like in nature when two organisms interact so completely that they create a new life form, the fusion of dreams and dresses explored here reveals that a women’s wardrobe is not merely a collection of clothing, but also a closet of dreams.
Dream Dresses goes beyond fashion predation and the Cinderella syndrome. These original, creative stories lay bare the deep, unique interpenetration of wardrobe and wishes – of dreams, desires, and the clothing that clings to them.
Hilary Scharper lays bare both follies that clothes would conceal and dreams that they sometimes reveal. With sharpness and compassion, and some wry humour, she recounts our society’s seemingly endless search for the perfect fit – even when such perfection requires alterations to the human body – and the human spirit – though rarely to its garments. These last, as Scharper’s ‘Epilogue:Diana’s Dresses’ illustrates, these last will survive to be admired, even venerated, long after their wearers have worn out.
~ F.T. Flahiff is Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of Toronto and author of Always Someone To Kill The Doves: A Life of Sheila Watson.
This is an astonishingly fresh collection of short stories linked by a key act of the imagination. Punctuated with fine insight, these stories give one pause and a great deal of pleasure. As I read these stories, I had the sense that I was seeing the world a little differently. Hilary Scharper is a storyteller with transforming wisdom.
~ Mary Jo Leddy, Member of the Order of Canada, is author of Radical Gratitude and a well-known refugee and human rights advocate.
Read the review in The Toronto Star